How will AI alter human–human interaction?
Information and telecommunication technology has increasingly mediated human communication over the 20th century, from the telegram to the telephone, and from the cell phone to the Internet. The 21st century marks a qualitative shift in this technological mediation, namely, that the contents of communication itself are altered algorithmically, giving a new meaning to Marshall McLuhan’s famous phrase “The medium is the message.”
AI-mediated communication is already pervasive. The images we share online are altered through filters that enhance our appearance. Spellcheckers and AI-powered grammar checkers make sure our sentences are well-formed. And with the rise of Large Language Models (LLMs), AI can even compose entire emails (or love poems) on our behalf. Video calls are becoming increasingly subjected to real-time filters, which not only allow us to alter the appearance of our surroundings—e.g., by showing a large library of books behind the speaker, signaling erudition—but are now beginning to alter our facial features and expressions. The anticipated rise of Augmented Reality will only accelerate these trends.
These developments, as well as more sci-fi-like imminent future developments, are altering human communication in fundamental ways. Much of our capacity for communication evolved, biologically and culturally, in order to solve issues of cooperation and coordination. We have no idea what happens when our ability to transmit and interpret facial, acoustic, and linguistic signals are completely AI-mediated. Can we trust others, without being able to look them in the eye because AI algorithms have altered their eye contact, or when AI has enhanced the honesty-signaling efficacy of their language? Or, more positively, can AI enhance cross-cultural communication by reducing the chance for misunderstanding? These are the kinds of questions we explore in this area of research.